There are many ways to kick-start and maintain active travel change with your school.
Often the first step is to get a conversation going in the school. Cardiff Cycle City have put together a survey that schools can use to help identify travel habits, the key issues around the journey to school and the barriers to moving to a healthier, greener school run. This can be a good way to baseline current behaviours and kick-start active travel improvements.
Talk to your school. Do they have an Active Travel Plan?
If not, could you help them shape one? Could you get pupils involved in active travel projects with the school? Engaged, enthusiastic children who’ve helped shape changes in the way they travel can be extremely influential for parents. Could you help man a stall at a school event to talk to parents, gather support and ideas, document safe routes to school and barriers and concerns regarding active travel?
Consider the specific school environment. Is there untapped potential (like parkland or an alternative quieter entrance to the school) that could open up options for active travel? It may be that there are already safe ways of getting to school on bike paths or very quiet roads that parents just aren’t aware of. Experimenting, and Google Maps and Street View, are your friends! Many schools have made finding safe, healthy routes to school a project for the children. In a Children’s Commissioner’s survey, 78% of children wanted to have a say in planning their route to school. So why not get them helping to develop skills around geography, healthy living, the natural environment and sustainability?
If you identify a potential route to your school that needs work to make it safe and attractive, then you can ask the Council to add it to their Integrated Network Map. This is the list of existing routes plus those that the council plans to develop for walking and cycling as part of Wales’ Active Travel Act. Public finances aren’t bottomless but these routes may then be eligible for funding from the Welsh Government. Contact Cardiff Cycle City for more information (see our “Who can help?” section).
Look to enlighten people. When measured in 2014-15, 60% of primary school children in Wales lived within a mile of their school (a 20 minute walk or less), and 88% lived within three miles (a 20 minute cycle or less).
As congestion continues to worsen in Cardiff these are timescales that are often comparable to driving. Establish, map and publish safe routes with the school. Many parents won’t know these. The route you’d cycle to schools is frequently a very different one to the established one we use by car. Then try it! Work with the school to publish active travel benefits, experiment, open eyes and change perceptions. Maybe have a trial walk, scoot and cycle to school week, or do the “Sustrans Big Pedal” or similar events.
Whatever the initiative, group mentality can be much more motivating, enlightening and fun, so get as many children, parents and guardians travelling actively en masse as you can!